How Did They Build the Great Pyramid of Giza?: An Animated Introduction

The Great Pyra­mid of Giza is a mir­a­cle of geom­e­try, con­struc­tion, and plan­ning ahead.

Pharaoh Khu­fu’s rel­a­tive — like­ly nephew — Hemienu, was put in charge of the project as soon as Khu­fu suc­ceed­ed his father, Pharaoh Sne­feru cir­ca 2550 B.C.E.

Hemienu, an engi­neer, priest and magi­cian whose hon­orifics includ­ed Mem­ber of the Elite, Vizier, King’s Seal-Bear­er, Priest of Bastet, Priest of Shes­me­tet, High Priest of Thoth, and, most impor­tant­ly, Over­seer of All Con­struc­tion Projects of the King, picked wise­ly when choos­ing the Great Pyra­mid’s site  - a rocky plateau on the Nile’s west bank made for a far stur­dier foun­da­tion than shift­ing sands.

His­to­ri­an Soraya Field Fio­rio’s ani­mat­ed TED-Ed les­son, above, details how the 25,000 work­ers who took 20 years to make Hemienu’s vision a real­i­ty were not enslaved labor, as they have so often been por­trayed — a rumor start­ed by Greek his­to­ri­an Herodotus — but rather, ordi­nary Egypt­ian cit­i­zens ful­fill­ing a peri­od of manda­to­ry gov­ern­ment ser­vice.

Some toiled on the admin­is­tra­tive end or in a sup­port capac­i­ty, while oth­ers got to spend ten hours a day haul­ing lime­stone on mas­sive cedar sleds.

A team of 500 ham­mered out the Pyramid’s gran­ite sup­port beams using dolerite rocks, a task so time con­sum­ing that Hemienu put them to work imme­di­ate­ly, antic­i­pat­ing that it would take them 12 years to pro­duce the nec­es­sary mate­ri­als.

Con­struc­tion sched­ules are always an iffy bet, but Hemienu had the added stress of know­ing that Khu­fu could take his leave well before his glo­ri­ous, gold­en tipped tomb was ready to receive him.

This is why there are three bur­ial cham­bers with­in the Great Pyra­mid. The last and grand­est of these, known as the King’s Cham­ber, is an impres­sive pink gran­ite room at the heart of pyra­mid, where its roof sup­ports over four hun­dred tons of mason­ry. An enor­mous red gran­ite sar­coph­a­gus weigh­ing well over 3 tons is locat­ed in the mid­dle of this cham­ber, but alas, the lid has been ajar for cen­turies.

Khu­fu is not with­in.

What became of him is a mys­tery, but if Scoo­by-Doo taught us any­thing of val­ue in our pre-TED-Ed child­hood, it’s that mys­ter­ies exist to be solved.

Sev­er­al years ago, an inter­na­tion­al team of archi­tects and sci­en­tists Egypt sur­veyed the Great Pyra­mid and its Giza neigh­bors at sun­rise and sun­set, using infrared ther­mog­ra­phy, which seemed to indi­cate the exis­tence of an as yet unex­plored cham­ber.

TED-Ed’s les­son plan directs those inter­est­ed in plumb­ing these and oth­er mys­ter­ies fur­ther to the Nation­al Geo­graph­ic doc­u­men­tary, Unlock­ing the Great Pyra­mid and Egyp­tol­o­gist Bob Brier’s book, The Secret of the Great Pyra­mid: How One Man’s Obses­sion Led to the Solu­tion of Ancient Egypt’s Great­est Mys­tery, both of which are root­ed in the work of French archi­tect Jean-Pierre Houdin, below.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Who Built the Egypt­ian Pyra­mids & How Did They Do It?: New Arche­o­log­i­cal Evi­dence Busts Ancient Myths

Take a 3D Tour Through Ancient Giza, Includ­ing the Great Pyra­mids, the Sphinx & More

What the Great Pyra­mid of Giza Would’ve Looked Like When First Built: It Was Gleam­ing, Reflec­tive White

A Drone’s Eye View of the Ancient Pyra­mids of Egypt, Sudan & Mex­i­co

Pyra­mids of Giza: Ancient Egypt­ian Art and Archaeology–a Free Online Course from Har­vard

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

The French Designed a Fake Replica of Paris to Fool German Bombers During World War I

Paris counts among the most beloved cities on Earth, a sta­tus that owes in part to the rel­a­tive lack of dam­age tak­en in dur­ing both World Wars. The desire to pro­tect and pre­serve Paris thus runs high today, but then, it also did a cen­tu­ry ago. The prospect of the city’s oblit­er­a­tion dur­ing what was then called the Great War inspired an espe­cial­ly ambi­tious defen­sive scheme. “At the begin­ning of 1917, a wild idea was float­ed,” writes the Dai­ly Beast­’s Alli­son McN­ear­ney. “Why not build a repli­ca of Paris just out­side of the city and fool Ger­man bombers into drop­ping their destruc­tive loads where only the decoys made of wood and fab­ric could be harmed.”

This Paris leurre (decoy) is the sub­ject of the 35-minute British Pathé doc­u­men­tary above, Illu­sion: The City That Nev­er Was. Its detailed plan “called for the con­struc­tion of three sep­a­rate ‘sham’ neigh­bor­hoods just out­side of the city”: a large train sta­tion mod­eled after Gare du Nord, a repli­ca city cen­ter with its own Champs-Élysées, and a “faux indus­tri­al zone with fac­to­ries and oth­er indi­ca­tions of wartime pro­duc­tion.”

Built most­ly out of wood and fab­ric, these remote unin­hab­it­ed quar­ters were to be equipped with ele­ments like work­ing street light­ing — designed by Fer­nand Jacopozzi, lat­er famed for his illu­mi­na­tion of the Eif­fel Tow­er — and a mov­ing train.

As it turned out, the train was one of the few ele­ments of this elab­o­rate fake City of Light actu­al­ly con­struct­ed. “In 1918, before the project could be com­plet­ed, the war came to an end and the gov­ern­ment quick­ly moved to dis­man­tle their secret project and sup­press all infor­ma­tion con­cern­ing its exis­tence,” writes McN­ear­ney. Only in the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry has this World War I‑era push to build a fake Paris come to light. Though nev­er com­plet­ed, its sheer ambi­tion speaks to France’s own con­cep­tion of its cap­i­tal as a store of price­less cul­tur­al and his­tor­i­cal her­itage. In a sense, Paris is civ­i­liza­tion, or at least French civ­i­liza­tion. One must ask: would human­i­ty go to the same lengths to pro­tect it today?

Relat­ed con­tent:

Albert Camus, Edi­tor of the French Resis­tance News­pa­per Com­bat, Writes Mov­ing­ly About Life, Pol­i­tics & War (1944–47)

Col­or Footage of the Lib­er­a­tion of Paris, Shot by Hol­ly­wood Direc­tor George Stevens (1944)

How France Hid the Mona Lisa & Oth­er Lou­vre Mas­ter­pieces Dur­ing World War II

Jean-Luc Godard’s Breath­less: How World War II Changed Cin­e­ma & Helped Cre­ate the French New Wave

See Berlin Before and After World War II in Star­tling Col­or Video

Time Trav­el Back to Tokyo After World War II, and See the City in Remark­ably High-Qual­i­ty 1940s Video

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Futurist Makes Weirdly Accurate Predictions in 1922 About What the World Will Look Like in 2022: Wireless Telephones, 8‑Hour Flights to Europe & More

Ear­li­er this year, we revis­it­ed a set of pre­dic­tions made in 1922 about what life would look like 100 years hence, in 2022. In the pages of the New York Her­ald, Eng­lish nov­el­ist W.L. George imag­ined a world in which “com­mer­cial fly­ing will have become entire­ly com­mon­place,” and “wire­less teleg­ra­phy and wire­less tele­phones will have crushed the cable sys­tem,” result­ing in gen­er­a­tions who’ll nev­er have seen “a wire out­lined against the sky.” As for the cin­e­ma, “the fig­ures on the screen will not only move, but they will have their nat­ur­al col­ors and speak with ordi­nary voic­es. Thus, the stage as we know it to-day may entire­ly dis­ap­pear, which does not mean the doom of art, since the movie actress of 2022 will not only need to know how to smile but also how to talk.” Above, you can hear a read­ing of W.L. George’s uncan­ny fore­casts. The read­ing comes cour­tesy of the YouTube Chan­nel Voic­es of the Past.  You can read the orig­i­nal text of the arti­cle here.

Relat­ed Con­tent

In 1922, a Nov­el­ist Pre­dicts What the World Will Look Like in 2022: Wire­less Tele­phones, 8‑Hour Flights to Europe & More

In 1953, a Tele­phone-Com­pa­ny Exec­u­tive Pre­dicts the Rise of Mod­ern Smart­phones and Video Calls

Jules Verne Accu­rate­ly Pre­dicts What the 20th Cen­tu­ry Will Look Like in His Lost Nov­el, Paris in the Twen­ti­eth Cen­tu­ry (1863)

In 1900, Ladies’ Home Jour­nal Pub­lish­es 28 Pre­dic­tions for the Year 2000

Futur­ist from 1901 Describes the World of 2001: Opera by Tele­phone, Free Col­lege & Pneu­mat­ic Tubes Aplen­ty

In 1911, Thomas Edi­son Pre­dicts What the World Will Look Like in 2011: Smart Phones, No Pover­ty, Libraries That Fit in One Book

In 1926, Niko­la Tes­la Pre­dicts the World of 2026

9 Sci­ence-Fic­tion Authors Pre­dict the Future: How Jules Verne, Isaac Asi­mov, William Gib­son, Philip K. Dick & More Imag­ined the World Ahead

Hear a Great Radio Documentary on William S. Burroughs Narrated by Iggy Pop

wsb pop

Images via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

William S. Bur­roughs is one of the most mythol­o­gized Amer­i­can authors of the 20th cen­tu­ry. When you recall the details of his life, they read like the biog­ra­phy of a fic­tion­al char­ac­ter. He was an unabashed hero­in addict yet he dressed like a dap­per insur­ance sales­man. He was open­ly, mil­i­tant­ly gay at a time when homo­sex­u­al­i­ty wasn’t even men­tioned in polite soci­ety. He shot his wife, Joan Vollmer, in Mex­i­co City while play­ing an ill-con­ceived game of William Tell and then spent years in Tang­iers indulging in every pos­si­ble vice while writ­ing Naked Lunch, which hap­pened to be one of the most con­tro­ver­sial books of the cen­tu­ry. And his writ­ing influ­enced just about every­one you con­sid­er cool.

Back in 2015, to com­mem­o­rate the 101st birth­day of Bur­roughs, This Amer­i­can Life aired a BBC doc­u­men­tary on Burroughs’s life. The show is nar­rat­ed by Iggy Pop whose voice, in announc­er mode, bears an uncan­ny resem­blance to Sam Elliot. Pop relates how Bur­roughs influ­enced Kurt Cobain, punk rock and Bob Dylan, and how he him­self lift­ed lyrics from Bur­roughs for his most pop­u­lar song, and unlike­ly Car­ni­val Cruise jin­gle, “Lust for Life.”

As Ira Glass notes, the doc­u­men­tary paints a clear pic­ture of why he is such a revered fig­ure – going into detail about his writ­ing, his huge­ly influ­en­tial “Cut Up” method, his obses­sion with cats – while nev­er buy­ing into his mys­tique. In fact, one of the most inter­est­ing parts of the doc is a damn­ing appraisal of Burroughs’s cool junkie per­sona by author Will Self, who was him­self an addict for a cou­ple of decades. You can lis­ten to the whole episode above.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Note: This post orig­i­nal­ly appeared on our site in 2015.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

When Iggy Pop Pub­lished an Essay, “Cae­sar Lives,” in an Aca­d­e­m­ic Jour­nal about His Love for Edward Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1995)

Prof. Iggy Pop Deliv­ers the BBC’s 2014 John Peel Lec­ture on “Free Music in a Cap­i­tal­ist Soci­ety”

Famous Edgar Allan Poe Sto­ries Read by Iggy Pop, Jeff Buck­ley, Christo­pher Walken, Mar­i­anne Faith­ful & More

William S. Bur­roughs on the Art of Cut-up Writ­ing

William S. Bur­roughs on Sat­ur­day Night Live, 1981

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing lots of pic­tures of bad­gers and even more pic­tures of vice pres­i­dents with octo­pus­es on their heads.  The Veep­to­pus store is here.

What the Rosetta Stone Actually Says

When most of us think of the words “Roset­ta Stone” — or, at least, when those of us past a cer­tain age do — we also think of at-home lan­guage-learn­ing cours­es. This must count as a tri­umph of brand­ing, but not one with­out a gen­uine basis in his­to­ry. For the Roset­ta Stone, the real Roset­ta Stone, did pro­vide human­i­ty with a means of great­ly expand­ing its store of lin­guis­tic knowl­edge. The stone’s text, orig­i­nal­ly carved dur­ing the Hel­lenis­tic peri­od, turned out to be use­ful indeed after the stone’s redis­cov­ery about twen­ty cen­turies lat­er. Its con­tent, and more specif­i­cal­ly its con­tent’s hav­ing been writ­ten three times in three dif­fer­ent scripts, unlocked the mys­tery of Ancient Egypt­ian hiero­glyphs.

But what, exact­ly, is that con­tent? In the video above, you can hear the nature of the Roset­ta Stone’s mes­sage explained by British Muse­um cura­tor Ilona Regul­s­ki. “It was a priest­ly decree that was drawn up on the 22nd of March, 196 BC,” she says. Issued by a coun­cil of priests who’d trav­eled to the ancient cap­i­tal of Mem­phis, it lists “hon­ors that they want to give to the king” Ptole­my V Epiphanes, going so far as “to com­pare him with a god.” These hon­ors include his stat­ue being placed in the tem­ple and car­ried dur­ing pro­ces­sions, his birth­day being cel­e­brat­ed in the tem­ple, and the date of his suc­ces­sion being added to offi­cial doc­u­ments — all of them enu­mer­at­ed in “one big sen­tence.”

The text also stip­u­lates that this decree had to be “writ­ten in stone, in sacred writ­ing, which is hiero­glyphs, in native writ­ing, which is the Demot­ic that we see in the mid­dle, and the writ­ing of the Greeks. And the stele would have to be put up in all impor­tant tem­ples of Egypt,” which means that there would have been many copies all over the coun­try. (And indeed, more have been found since the ini­tial dis­cov­ery in 1799.) Nor is the Roset­ta Stone the only known exam­ple of such a priest­ly decree from Ancient Egypt. More recent research has turned toward the ques­tion of who wrote such texts, as well as who trans­lat­ed them.

“In the time the Roset­ta Stone was inscribed, Egypt was a very mul­ti­cul­tur­al place, with many for­eign­ers and peo­ple who could speak more than one lan­guage,” says Regul­s­ki. “For Egypt­ian priests and scribes, who were work­ing for the cen­tral­ized admin­is­tra­tion for the states, it prob­a­bly would­n’t have been so dif­fi­cult to com­pose the text in Greek and then trans­late it into their own Egypt­ian native lan­guage. In fact, this prob­a­bly would have been eas­i­er for them, because they worked on a dai­ly basis in the Greek lan­guage.” At the time, the task of trans­la­tion would sure­ly have seemed rou­tine, even triv­ial beside the roy­al exal­ta­tion per­formed by the mes­sage itself. But today, when few of us wor­ship kings as gods, we exalt the Roset­ta Stone’s for­got­ten trans­la­tor instead.

Relat­ed con­tent:

The British Muse­um Cre­ates 3D Mod­els of the Roset­ta Stone & 200+ Oth­er His­toric Arti­facts: Down­load or View in Vir­tu­al Real­i­ty

How Schol­ars Final­ly Deci­phered Lin­ear B, the Old­est Pre­served Form of Ancient Greek Writ­ing

The British Muse­um Is Now Open To Every­one: Take a Vir­tu­al Tour and See 4,737 Arti­facts, Includ­ing the Roset­ta Stone

A 4,000-Year-Old Stu­dent ‘Writ­ing Board’ from Ancient Egypt (with Teacher’s Cor­rec­tions in Red)

What Ancient Egypt­ian Sound­ed Like & How We Know It

Learn 48 Lan­guages Online for Free: Span­ish, Chi­nese, Eng­lish & More

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Why Quentin Tarantino Will Only Make 10 Movies

Time and again in inter­views, Quentin Taran­ti­no has straight-faced­ly declared that he will retire from film­mak­ing after his tenth fea­ture. He may already have reached that num­ber with 2019’s Once Upon a Time… in Hol­ly­wood, depend­ing on whether each part of Kill Bill counts as a sep­a­rate film. If not, we have one more Taran­ti­no pic­ture to look for­ward to. His dec­la­ra­tion of immi­nent retire­ment is unusu­al and even dispir­it­ing giv­en that he’s still in his late fifties, an age that has found many auteurs at the peak of their pow­ers. What lies behind it is the sub­ject of the short video above from Evan Puschak, bet­ter known as the Nerd­writer.

“I like the idea that there is an umbil­i­cal cord con­nect­ed to my first film, all the way to my last, and that is my body of work,” says Taran­ti­no in one of the inter­view clips includ­ed. “A bad film on the fil­mog­ra­phy affects good films.” Being known not just as a promi­nent direc­tor but an obses­sive cinephile, Taran­ti­no can sure­ly name off the top of his head dozens of mas­ter film­mak­ers who allowed their own bod­ies of work to be blem­ished.

“Artists don’t always notice when their skills are flag­ging,” as Puschak puts it. “Taran­ti­no is leav­ing ear­ly to pre­vent cross­ing that line unwit­ting­ly.” Though spec­u­la­tive, this notion has hard­ly been con­tra­dict­ed by the direc­tor’s own words.

Puschak writes about the pow­er of the oeu­vre — an artist’s body of work tak­en as a whole, even as an art­work in itself — in his new book Escape into Mean­ing. The con­tent of this video reflects only the first sec­tion of that essay, a med­i­ta­tion on what it means to con­sid­er every­thing a cre­ator has made as a piece of an inter­con­nect­ed whole. The tech­niques, ref­er­ences, themes, and obses­sions that recur promi­nent­ly in Taran­ti­no’s movies make his fil­mog­ra­phy prac­ti­cal­ly invite such an analy­sis, as well the ques­tion asked by Puschak: “Can a well-designed fil­mog­ra­phy bestow greater mean­ing onto the films that make it up?” No mat­ter how many more works Taran­ti­no will make, and what­ev­er form they take, the whole of his exist­ing oeu­vre assures us that all of them will be thor­ough­ly Taran­tin­ian.

Relat­ed con­tent:

An Analy­sis of Quentin Tarantino’s Films Nar­rat­ed (Most­ly) by Quentin Taran­ti­no

How Quentin Taran­ti­no Shoots a Film at 3 Dif­fer­ent Bud­get Lev­els: Reser­voir Dogs ($1 Mil­lion), Pulp Fic­tion ($8 Mil­lion), and Once Upon a Time in Hol­ly­wood ($95 Mil­lion)

Quentin Tarantino’s Copy­cat Cin­e­ma: How the Post­mod­ern Film­mak­er Per­fect­ed the Art of the Steal

How Quentin Taran­ti­no Remix­es His­to­ry: A Brief Study of Once Upon a Time… in Hol­ly­wood

Quentin Taran­ti­no Releas­es His First Nov­el: A Pulpy Nov­el­iza­tion of Once Upon a Time… in Hol­ly­wood

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Unpopular Music Fandom — Musicians and Philosophers Discuss on Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #134


With the dis­so­lu­tion of pop­u­lar music cul­ture by the Inter­net, what is it now to be into music gen­res that aren’t cur­rent­ly pop­u­lar? Is it still an act of rebel­lion, or is even that passé?

Your Pret­ty Much Pop host Mark Lin­sen­may­er is joined by com­poser/­mul­ti-instru­men­tal­ist Jonathan Segel from Camper van Beethoven, philoso­pher Matt Teich­man of the Elu­ci­da­tions pod­cast, and musi­cian and Inter­net DJ Steve Petrinko to talk about our rela­tion to the main­stream, the dif­fer­ent types of unpop­u­lar music (pop­u­lar 30 years ago vs. nev­er pop­u­lar avant garde), post-irony, and more.

Lis­ten to Jonathan and Steve talk­ing about their own music on Mark’s Naked­ly Exam­ined Music pod­cast. Lis­ten to one of Matt’s elec­tron­ic com­po­si­tions from col­legeLis­ten to Mark and Matt on Matt’s pod­cast.

Watch Richard Thomp­son sing “Oops I Did It Again.” Here’s that attempt to give a 2022 remix to the 80s hit “Come On Eileen.”

As rec­om­men­da­tions, Jonathan men­tioned Venet­ian Snares, Steve rec­om­mend­ed ear­ly Weath­er ReportRead Jonathan’s blog about var­i­ous ver­sions of The Grate­ful Dead’s “Dark Star.” Read Pat Methe­ny pick­ing on Ken­ny G.

Hear more Pret­ty Much Pop. Sup­port the show and hear bonus talk­ing for this and near­ly every oth­er episode at or by choos­ing a paid sub­scrip­tion through Apple Pod­casts. This pod­cast is part of the Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life pod­cast net­work.

Pret­ty Much Pop: A Cul­ture Pod­cast is the first pod­cast curat­ed by Open Cul­ture. Browse all Pret­ty Much Pop posts.

DALL‑E, the New AI Art Generator, Is Now Open for Everyone to Use

If you spend any time at all on social media, you’ll have glimpsed the work of DALL‑E, Ope­nAI’s now-famous arti­fi­cial-intel­li­gence engine that gen­er­ate images from sim­ple text descrip­tions. A veloci­rap­tor dressed like Travis Bick­le, Amer­i­can Goth­ic star­ring Homer and Marge Simp­son, that astro­naut rid­ing a horse on the moon: like any the-future-is-now moment, espe­cial­ly in recent years on the inter­net, DALL-E’s rise has pro­duced a host of arti­facts as impres­sive as they are ridicu­lous. Now you can try to top them in both of those dimen­sions your­self, since not just DALL‑E but the new, improved, high­er-res­o­lu­tion DALL‑E 2 has just opened for pub­lic use.

“How do you use DALL‑E 2?” You might well ask, and Cre­ative Bloq has a guide for you. “The tool gen­er­ates art based on text prompts,” it explains. “On the face of it, that could­n’t be more sim­ple. Once you’ve com­plet­ed the DALL‑E 2 sign up to open an account, you use the pro­gram in your brows­er on the DALL‑E 2 web­site. You type in a descrip­tion of what you want, and DALL‑E will cre­ate the image.”

Of course, some prompts pro­duce more visu­al­ly inter­est­ing results than oth­ers. The guide rec­om­mends that you con­sult the DALL‑E 2 prompt book, which gets into how best to phrase your descrip­tions in order to inspire the rich­est com­bi­na­tions of sub­ject, tex­ture, style, and form.

“Even the cre­ators of DALL‑E 2 don’t know what the tool knows and does­n’t know. Instead, users have to work out what it’s capa­ble of doing and how to get it to do what they want.” And indeed, that’s the part of the fun. DALL-E’s own inter­face rec­om­mends that you “start with a detailed descrip­tion,” and with a lit­tle exper­i­men­ta­tion you’ll dis­cov­er that speci­fici­ty is key. The ren­der­ings of “an eight-bit Nin­ten­do game designed by Hiroshige” and “a cyber­punk down­town Los Ange­les scene paint­ed by Rem­brandt” strike me as cred­i­ble enough for a first effort, but adding just a few more words opens up entire­ly new realms of sur­prise and incon­gruity.

Just above, we have two of DALL-E’s infi­nite­ly many pos­si­ble attempts to visu­al­ize “the cov­er of an old Ernest Hem­ing­way pulp nov­el about the adven­tures of David Bowie.” Though the designs look entire­ly plau­si­ble, the titles high­light the tech­nol­o­gy’s already-noto­ri­ous inabil­i­ty to come up with intel­li­gi­ble text. Oth­er lim­i­ta­tions of the new­ly pub­lic DALL‑E, accord­ing to Ars Tech­ni­ca’s Benj Edwards, include the require­ment to pro­vide your phone num­ber and oth­er infor­ma­tion in order to sign up, the own­er­ship of the gen­er­at­ed images by Ope­nAI, and the neces­si­ty to pur­chase “cred­its” to gen­er­ate more images after you’ve run through your ini­tial free 50. Still, there’s noth­ing quite like typ­ing in a few words and sum­mon­ing up works of art no one has ever seen before to make you feel like you’re liv­ing in the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry. You can sign up here.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Dis­cov­er DALL‑E, the Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence Artist That Lets You Cre­ate Sur­re­al Art­work

An AI-Gen­er­at­ed Paint­ing Won First Prize at a State Fair & Sparked a Debate About the Essence of Art

Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence Brings to Life Fig­ures from 7 Famous Paint­ings: The Mona Lisa, Birth of Venus & More

Google App Uses Machine Learn­ing to Dis­cov­er Your Pet’s Look Alike in 10,000 Clas­sic Works of Art

Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence for Every­one: An Intro­duc­to­ry Course from Andrew Ng, the Co-Founder of Cours­era

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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